Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) disclosed on Tuesday that no fewer than 500,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Nigerian communities unknowingly, stressing that the situation could be counterproductive in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
NACA Director-General Dr Gambo Aliyu, who disclosed the information at a press conference in Abuja, to herald the 2020 World AIDS Day, said that NACA will use the occasion to amplify the need for self-testing and other actions that would discourage new infections.
‘At the moment, we have more than 1.2 million people that are on HIV/AIDS treatment. This is huge progress considering where we are coming from. However, in our estimation, we have a balance of 500,000 people out there in our communities who are living with the disease unknowingly, and that is why we are promoting self-testing,’ Dr Aliyu said.
‘We will continue to encourage every Nigerian to do HIV test and know their status. If the result returns positive, we will counsel them and ensure treatment is commenced immediately.’
Dr Aliyu confirmed that the usage of HIV drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 patients had a temporary impact on the treatment of HIV patients, but that has been reversed. ‘I can confirm that no HIV/AIDS drug is being administered on COVID-19 patients,’ he stated.
The Representative of World Health Organization (WHO) in Nigeria, Fiona Braka, in her remarks, thanked the NACA for the line up of activities for the 2020 event, hoping that the event will provide an opportunity for more people to be enlightened as regards HIV/AIDS.
He reassured NACA that WHO was committed to the fight against HIV, using the platform of community engagement, advocacy and regular enlightenment.
National Coordinator, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Abdulkadir Ibrahim, in his speech, registered his discontent that Nigeria was yet to achieve the 2020 target goal of United Nations Aids (UNAIDS), which was aimed at diagnosing 90 per cent of all HIV positive people, thus providing lifesaving antiretroviral therapy for them and achieving viral suppression for those on treatment.
He informed NACA that new infections are recorded among youths, women and children on daily basis, as data indicated that Nigeria has only reduced infections to 10 per cent in past 10 years.